Vidaarth’s latest outing is a far cry from its ambitions and gives the impression of being a pitch for a grander, smarter thriller
Aattral is plagued by genericness in every scene and dialogue. KL Kannan’s film looks less like a film and more like a trial version of the film it wants to be. The logistical constraints are evident too. In one action sequence, the lighting keeps jumping between shots to make up for the sunset in the background. In another sequence, the leading man, Arjun (played by Vidaarth), clearly fails to catch a knife in the air. The editing tries to make up for the mistake but the cut is not quick enough.
Starring: Vidaarth, Shrita Rao, Charlie, Vamsikrishna, Vicky, Vidyu Raman
Directed: KL Kannan
The screenplay too flows like the earliest draft with characters uttering the most basic lines and doing the most obvious things. Arjun needs Rs 10 lakh to realise his dream project. It is a number beyond the economic situation of his modest family, headed by his mechanic father, played by Charlie. The supporting father, whose name we barely register, assures his son that he will provide all the financial support he needs. The dialogue goes, “Oru mechanic ah ennala 10 lakhs sambathika mudiyaathu, aana oru…” I swear I finished this line before Charlie, and I am sure you can too. “…oru appa-va ennala mudiyum.” Do you get the idea of the writing on display? The heroine, on the other hand, falls for Arjun after he helps her recover something she lost. What does she do to confess her love for the man? She seeks help from her friend, played by Vidyu Raman, who utters some nonsensical lines and disappears, thankfully. Then there’s RJ Vigneshkanth playing Arjun’s friend and assistant in his garage. When a newbie in the garage tries to please Charlie’s character with a lie, an angry Vigneshkanth goes, “Nee Harischandran nu peru vechukute epdi panriye, Nithyananda nu peru vechirundha innum ennaalam pannirupa?” Humour, it seems.
All these scenes end up as amateur sketches written by teenagers giving a shot at screenwriting after assimilating hundreds of pot-boilers from the 2000s. I am sure if today’s 10-year-olds try their hand at fan fiction of science-fiction and crime thrillers they adore, there is a 97.6% chance that they’ll turn up with something more interesting, inventive and less generic than Aattral.
Even after the inciting incident, the death of Arjun’s father 35-minutes into the film, Aattral barely shows any traces of promise and focus. It continues to meander on this poorly written, badly acted love story until the halfway mark. Does it get any better when Arjun realises his dream of inventing a car controlled by voice instructions? No, unfortunately. One kind of amateurism ends, instigating the beginning of another involving a crime network and its mastermind, Jo (Vamsi Krishna, playing his stock character for the 231st time). Jo is the kind of cool criminal to wear black shades in the swimming pool. When he is fuming with anger, his mole says lines like, “Cool baby,” “Relax”, and “Calm down.” It almost felt like she was consoling me, as I witnessed this silly film.
The film keeps trying to remind us that it is smart than we make of it. Jo uses micro drones that masquerade as flies to help him and his men rob and kill people in their houses. The film also tries to shock you with occasional splashes of violence. An old man just after he waves goodbye to his grandchildren over a video call. The idea is to evoke sympathy, but you are hardly in a position to care for a fictional character on the screen. The throats of a man and his pregnant wife are slit, and two seconds later, we have Vidyu Raman performing a comedy sketch. Jarring is an understatement to describe the oscillations in tonality.
There are a handful of neat ideas buried under the genericness. The climax twist, for instance, is not entirely ‘juvenile’ and is perhaps the only surprise in this autocomplete script that runs for 118 minutes. The police station scene that opens the second half pronounces the helplessness of the protagonist—and the audience. And it reduces the police to cardboard cutouts of bad guys like a million other films. Arjun silently observes the sadness around him and Vidaarth, the actor, is effective here when it is about projecting his vulnerability. He looks terribly out of place in a romantic song shot in the woods and the many slow-motion shots in the action sequences don’t quite complement his presence.
Aattral, meaning energy/efficiency, doesn’t quite possess this quality. The craft—cinematography, production design and music—is functional, to say the least, and hardly rises above mediocrity on all fronts. In all, the film is another addition to the long list of films that harbour lofty ambitions but sink without a trace before reaching the desired creative destination.
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